Cecil Clementi



Cecil Clementi (Sir) (b. 1 September 1875, Cawnpore, India–d. 5 April 1947, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom) was the governor and commander-in-chief of the Straits Settlements, and the high commissioner for the Federated Malay States from 1929 to 1934.1 Proficient in Chinese languages, primarily Cantonese and Mandarin, Clementi had extensive experience dealing with Chinese problems.2 His strong measures to suppress anti-colonial propaganda, which were Chinese and communist in origin, were seen as racially divisive.3 He resigned on grounds of ill health in 1934.4

Early life
Clementi was the eldest son of Colonel Montagu Clementi, who was at one time the judge advocate-general in India.5 Clementi was educated in St Paul’s School, London, and later attended Magdalen College in Oxford, where he was one of the most outstanding students of his cohort.6 He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in 1898 and Master of Arts in 1901. He was a brilliant intellectual, as evidenced by the many honours and prizes he received.7


Career
Clementi joined the Colonial Service as a cadet in 1899 and was appointed to Hong Kong, where he became at once an enthusiastic student of the local culture.8 A year after his arrival, he passed the Civil Service Examinations in Cantonese, an achievement almost without parallel then. He later took up Mandarin and passed a proficiency examination in 1906.9 Four years earlier, in 1902, he had been made a member of the Board of Examiners in Chinese. He did well in Hong Kong and was promoted to assistant colonial secretary by 1907.10 From 1911 to 1912, he was the acting colonial secretary and a member of the executive and legislative councils.11


Clementi left Hong Kong in 1913 for his appointment as the colonial secretary of British Guiana (now called Guyana).12 In 1922, he moved to Ceylon (Sri Lanka today), where he remained as colonial secretary until 1925. On more than one occasion in both colonies, he was called upon to run the government as Acting Governor.13 In recognition of his outstanding performance as an administrator, Clementi was appointed Governor of Hong Kong in 1925.14 He was made Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (K. C. M. G.) the following year.15

In November 1929, Clementi was appointed as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Straits Settlements and the High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States.16 His uncle and godfather, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, had held this appointment from 1887 to 1893.17 Clementi left Hong Kong for Singapore in early 1930 to take up his new responsibilities, and was bestowed the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (G. C. M. G.) a year later.18

However, he was quite unpopular with the locals. Some of his attempts to suppress anti-colonial propaganda included the censoring of the vernacular press, banning of the Kuomintang in Singapore, and disallowing of fundraising efforts for the party based in China. Clementi further aroused the anger of prominent Peranakan Chinese with his policies concerning education and immigration, which they found racially discriminatory and anti-Chinese. For instance, Clementi stopped providing grants in aid of Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools. This meant that only Malay education was provided free and primary education in English was subsidised.19

Still, Clementi proved a man of vision, projecting in 1931 that Singapore would become the site for an international airport.20 The result was the Kallang Airport which opened in 1937, and which was the finest airport in the region for its time.21 Clementi resigned as Governor on 18 October 1934 on grounds of ill health, while on leave in England.22

Travels
Clementi had a great passion for travel, and made many trips deep into the interior of China, India and many other out-of-the-way places. These adventures were the subject of his many publications. For his extensive travels, he received the Cuthbert Peek Award from the Royal Geographical Society in 1912.23


Family
Clementi married Marie Penelope Rose, daughter of Admiral Cresswell J. Eyres, in 1912. The couple had one son and three daughters.24




Authors

Vernon Cornelius & Valerie Chew



References
1. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, pp. 305–306. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS); Death of Sir Cecil Clementi. (1947, April 8). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS)
3. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 137. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
4. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 306. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS); Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS); Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS); Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS)
15. New Year honours. (1926, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, pp. 305–306. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS); Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS); Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11; New Year honours. (1926, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 137. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
20. Man of vision. (1947, April 8). The Straits Times, p. 7; Kallang and the future. (1953, December 14). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Kallang and the future. (1953, December 14). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Sir Cecil Clementi resigns the governorship. (1934, June 15). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Colony’s new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11; Sir Cecil Clementi’s first speech in Malaya. (1930, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 11; Gold Coast Governor to succeed him. (1934, June 15). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Olson, J. S., & Shadle, R., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Historical dictionary of the British empire (Vol. 1). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 941.003 HIS)




Further resource
The new Governor. (1929, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Governors--Singapore--Biography
Colonial administrators
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
Clementi, Cecil, Sir, 1875-1947
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators